Ones to watch: Lorcan Spiteri

by Henry Coldstream 27 April 2022

The son of two of London’s most renowned restaurateurs, Lorcan Spiteri has gone on to forge an impressive career of his own, working at the likes of Quo Vadis before opening his own restaurant alongside his brother. We caught up with him shortly after the opening of his newest concept Caravel.

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Henry is the features editor at Great British Chefs.

Henry is the features editor at Great British Chefs. Having previously written pieces for a variety of online food publications, he joined the team in 2021 and helps with all editorial aspects of the site. When not writing, Henry can usually be found eating and drinking his way through London's many restaurants and bars, or cooking in his kitchen at home.

In every industry there are certain surnames that make people’s ears prick up. When it comes to the world of running London restaurants, Spiteri is definitely one of them. Whilst renowned restaurateur John Spiteri (one of the founding partners of St. John and more recently Sessions Arts Club) and his former wife, Rochelle Canteen co-owner Melanie Arnold, may have made names for themselves in the business side of restaurants, their son Lorcan has gravitated towards the kitchen. Determined to forge a successful career of his own, he now runs two separate restaurants with his brother Fin at Islington’s Studio Kitchen, and seems to be in his element doing so.

‘For me it’s all about having a good time cooking,’ says Lorcan. ‘I’m not one of those people who wants to gradually move out of the kitchen; I obviously trust my staff but I just really like being in there cooking.’ Whilst you may expect such a love of cooking to have developed gradually over time, for Lorcan it was always the buzz of the professional kitchen that appealed, having been immersed in it from a young age thanks to his parents. ‘I’ve just always been around it,’ he explains. ‘Even as kids we got to go to a lot of nice restaurants, and then as a teenager I started to help my mum out at events, bringing plates back to the kitchen and stuff.’

Lorcan’s first experience of actually working at a restaurant however, came at Soho institution Quo Vadis, where his dad was general manager. Though he began as a commis waiter (‘I was literally polishing plates and cutlery’), he soon found his way into the kitchen and began watching on with fascination as his fellow chefs prepped for services. After eventually being allowed to help out on cold starters, Lorcan slowly started to work his way around the sections, as the legendary Jeremy Lee took him under his wing. ‘I remember him saying to me ‘If you stick with me, you won’t need to go to culinary school. Just learn it all here’,’ he recalls. ‘So that’s what I did! It was such big kitchen with so many sections, so I would just learn and repeat. I’d mess up occasionally – I remember burning a massive batch of crab soup once and being mortified – but that’s part of learning.’

Lorcan's newest restaurant Caravel is moored on the Regent's Canal.
Caravel has space for thirty covers and a small kitchen on board.

Over the course of his four years at Quo Vadis, Lorcan learnt all about the importance of respecting ingredients and always using the best suppliers where possible – an ethos he now shares, particularly at his most recent opening Caravel. ‘We’re always trying to use really nice produce from suppliers like Natoora and Fin and Flounder,’ explains Lorcan. ‘But we also try and do everything from scratch, like making our own sourdough and pickling everything ourselves. It’s all stuff I was taught at places like Quo Vadis.’ After four years at Quo Vadis and having worked his way up to the position of sous chef, Lorcan eventually decided to move to Islington’s Oldroyd where he was able to cook a different, more Italian-led style of food, including making lots of fresh pasta, before going on to spend time at his mum’s restaurant Rochelle Canteen. However, he soon realised he was getting restless and wanted to do something of his own.

‘I started to think about street food concepts,’ says Lorcan. ‘I pretty much grew up in chicken shops; me and my friends would always go and try loads of different wings. So I thought It would be fun to try doing posh fried chicken, using guinea fowl instead. The idea was we’d have that really nice, darker meat but it would be dressed up in a way that meant people weren’t hostile towards it. Even then though, I remember when we first started serving it some people thought we were frying guinea pig!’ Lorcan’s fried guinea fowl concept Guinea Fowlers began as a market stall before going on to pop up at various pubs across London but it ultimately proved to be a stepping stone to something much bigger altogether.

In 2020, Lorcan and his brother Fin struck up conversations with the owners of Holborn Studios in Angel about running the food and drinks offering and, within a few months, the four of them were partners. After initially just catering at the studios, lockdown gave the brothers a chance to work out a plan and as soon as restrictions lifted, they launched The Pontoon at Studio Kitchen, offering a casual style of food similar to that of Guinea Fowlers. ‘Soon after we opened, Fergus Henderson sat outside and ate one of our fried chicken burgers with a Guinness,’ smiles Lorcan. ‘That was a good moment for us.’ Lorcan, however, had obviously learnt and fallen in love with his craft whilst working in fine dining restaurants, so it’s no surprise that he would also eventually want to bring a more serious element to the food at Studio Kitchen, and that’s the idea behind new concept Caravel.

Lorcan's salsify with gribiche and hazelnuts.
Lorcan's sesame prawn toast with chilli and lime.

Located on a boat moored up on the Regent’s Canal near Studio Kitchen, which the brothers had always had plans for, Caravel serves a varied menu, taking influence from all the different places that Lorcan has worked at over the years. ‘The menu is a bit of a mish-mash,’ he explains. ‘I’ve taken bits from here and there but it’s all stuff that I enjoy cooking and that I hope people enjoy eating. People may think ‘what’s going on here’ at first because we serve everything from prawn toast to a crab tagliatelle, but they’re all dishes that work.’ Whilst Lorcan oversees the kitchen, Caravel is still very much a family affair, with his brother taking charge of front of house and the hope that they might also be able to get their sister involved at some point in the future too. ‘I think three siblings working together would be pretty cool,’ he smiles. ‘I’m not sure I could deal with my dad too and my mum’s super busy, but it would be amazing to have my sister on board.’

Caravel has only been open for a matter of months, but Lorcan clearly doesn’t want to stop there. ‘There’s a lot more we want to do here,’ he says. ‘We’ve got more boats and more ideas for concepts here, so there are big plans. But as a chef, I just want to keep enjoying myself and having a good time. That’s the most important thing.’ Lorcan may have grown up with food in his blood, so to speak, but this is a chef who clearly wants to make his own success rather than ride on the back of his parents. And with two different concepts already to his name at Studio Kitchen and no plans to stop there, it seems that this young chef has a very bright future ahead of him.